On this week’s episode, we’re going to complete our two part interview that we started last week with Aleshia Howell and Erika Mitnik of the Arizona Forge Program, which is helping the entrepreneurial community and those even considering the entrepreneurial world get started here in Tucson.
Today is September 25th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.
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On this week’s episode, we’re going to complete our two part interview that we started last week with Alicia Howe and Erica Mitnick of the Arizona Forge Program, which is helping the entrepreneurial community and those even considering the entrepreneurial world get started here in Tucson.
Today is September 25, 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday are focused on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about from May Mountain, the University of Arizona, and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on downtownradio.org, also available on your iPhone or Android by getting our very own Downtown Radio
Tucson app. If you want to reach us on the show, our email address is email@example.com. You can head to that URL for our past episodes, purchase our book or contact us there as well. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and our podcast is in a lot of the places you might find your favorite podcasts. As we wrap up September, I want to make you aware of an event coming up next Friday the 30th. It is the 2022 Intuit Tucson Pride Parade and registration for that parade ends today, the 25th. So if you are interested in walking or have a float in the Tucson Pride Parade, you’ll want to get that filled out immediately. You can find them on Facebook and of course we’ll link to them from our Facebook page. But the event is going to start at 530 this coming Friday on the 30th and then it will last about 3 hours and then they expect the whole area to be cleared by around nine. And the route is going to be around Armory Park this year. It’s going to start around 6th Avenue in the Army Park
area. It’s going to go as far south as 16th and then back up on Stone. And we’ll of course end up in the Army Park area at the end. Of course, everyone is welcome to join and participate. But if you want to actually be in the parade, head over to their website and you can go to Tucsonpride.org I believe will get you there. But also put this on our Facebook page because you got to get that registration in today because I’m looking at their website and it says in big bold letters no exceptions. Which means probably no exceptions. Well, two exceptional people that we talked with last week are back. It’s Alicia Howell and Erica Mitnick. We discussed the Arizona Forge program and how it’s impacting our community and the interview was going so well, we just had too much information to condense it down into one. So we ended up extending it to a two part series, and you’re going to hear the second part of that here today. The more the focus now is on the collaboration within the community, the
mentor program, the things that they pull together to provide outlets and resources for entrepreneurials and entrepreneurial minded people. So here’s part two of that interview with the intro from last week.
I’m Erica Mitnick. I am the marketing and communications manager for Ford.
And we’re also joined with and I’m Alicia Howell. I am program coordinator of Forge at Roy Place. And we are based in the Roy Place building in downtown Tucson. And we are the flagship location of Forge Communities, which works to advance the entrepreneurial ecosystem everywhere where the university has presence.
Two concepts which I really would like to delve into is it’s not just the skill sets, but it’s this concept of mentorship that you really reach out and provide expertise with people that are seeking that. Can you talk about the mentorship program, what that means?
Yeah, sure. So Forge currently employees is that the right word?
Offers assistance from eight mentors and residents. And they’re fantastic. They’re currently based all around the state in the different places where Forge has presence. So if you are in one of those locations, yuma, Phoenix. You have access to someone locally who you can actually go and speak to. And these are people from all backgrounds, industries, but they’re all universally such great people. One is the man who invented the command strip, which is actually not a story that he likes to tell, but spent his career at three M in Minnesota. Now he’s here and knows a lot about product design and testing. And this is a resource, somebody who you can go and speak to without making an appointment. He holds office hours on campus and you can go and have a conversation with him. So I think we’re really lucky to have our mentors just available and so willing and excited to help people who just have ideas that they want to kick around with somebody and try to bring to life.
And a lot of them are incredibly accomplished folks. And a couple of things happen. One, folks coming into our programs get access to people that they normally wouldn’t be able to talk to so early in their careers and really hear what’s involved. We have great mentors from the healthcare and biomedical field. We have mentors in marketing. We have mentors in just an amazing array of folks. Folks who have worked with the government, who have worked in security, It infrastructure. And these are folks who really are excited to sit down one on one with folks who are starting out and really help them sort of rotate their ideas, fine tune their pitch, help for folks who are at the stage where they’re actually actively seeking venture investment. We have folks here who can talk about what that process looks like and where to go for that. So it’s really exciting. The mentors hold drop in hours at some of our locations for folks who just want to drop in or more formal mentoring. So we really have
a lot of flexibility with that experience.
And you’ve talked about the forge at Roy Place and you’ve got different areas and you started the conversation discussing how you’re reinventing this because of what the community needs. So if you’re in Yuma or if you’re in Phoenix or if you’re in Tucson and you’re part of a forge, are they focused on different areas? Do they mold within the communities?
They are currently? And I think that’s by virtue of the focuses of those communities, I think every community is different. Every community has strengths, challenges, interests, and people who are able to contribute and make that a success. So right now in Yuma, the focus is kind of agtech in that area because that’s where we’re seeing the most interest in participation in entrepreneurial activity. So our mentor there, Randy Nelson, is based in a building, and Erica will have to provide more clarity on where that building is because I’ve not been there and I don’t know, but they have a facility there that you can visit. And I’m sure that if you had an idea that did not fall under an agtech banner, you could still drop in and receive help from Randy. He used to work for the Small Business Development Center SBDC and has a lot of experience helping people write business plans and think through their ideas and consider possibilities and contingencies and all of that stuff. So it’s not like
that area is limited to agriculture and AG tech products. But that’s kind of the focus of that location right now. As I understand Erica can correct me if I’m wrong, it is just part.
Of the focus since, again, that is a big industry out there. But like I said, Randy has a lot of background and also our mentors. We really encourage them to sort of work in person partnership to help folks again find whoever the right resources. And because all of our mentors have so much experience just sort of in the basics of how businesses operate, what it means to form a business, what it means to be incorporated, what it means to have the resources that you need to have to launch. They’re a great starting place. And the newest program that we have is Native Forge. So Forge just received a grant from the Economic Development Administration. We are now one of their university centers. And so we are working with tribal nations. We’re working with the 22 federally recognized tribes within Arizona. And what we are seeking to do over five years is work with folks in that community with tribal entrepreneurs. We actually have our first Native Forge Conference gathering those entrepreneurs
together. That’s happening in November of this year. And we’re really excited. We also have a dedicated mentor who works specifically with that program, who is part of the Pasco Yaki community and has worked extensively not just with tribal nations across Arizona, but across several states.
And we’ll get back to the second half of today’s interview, which would be part four total of our complete series with Alicia and Erica in just a moment. But first, I want to remind you that you are listening to Lifelong, the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtownradio.org.
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We’re back and we’re going to finish up our interview. It’s a two parter last week and this week with Alicia Howell, erica Mitnick of the Arizona Forge program at Roy Place, right in downtown Tucson.
Yeah, this is just amazing, the depth of the programs that you’re offering. And when we first started, one of the very first things that came up as you were defining yourself was that in Tucson we have other organizations supporting the YWCA was mentioned, Startup Tucson. Do you find that you’re collaborating with those organizations?
Yeah, absolutely. Yes. I think a Rising Tide lists all boats, and particularly in the case of Startup Tucson, they’re an official community partner to Forge. They are based in our building. We have a lot to do with Startup Tucson. Earlier in the year, I co facilitated a program called CF Squared, which was a program for adults in introductory computer science and the art of programming. And that was a ten week, tuition free program for adults following Harvard’s CS 50 curriculum. And it was really, really great to see people come into that program really wanting to find an opportunity to change careers or learn new skills or to even build their own thing and to really build those skills. And the things that they created at the end were just amazing. So these opportunities are out there, and I think it only takes you to believe in yourself that you can do it and organizations to lay out an opportunity and some structure behind that. So I think it takes a very disciplined person to be able
to do a program like that by yourself, which you absolutely can do online. There’s just so much great, free, high quality programming available on the Internet that you can just do from your home. But I think having a community really helps.
And that’s, again, what I really like about Forge is you get access to people who have done these things and seeing and meeting people who say, yeah, you can do this. I’ve done it. The other thing about our Thursday programs is after the Thursday programs, we invite people to come and work in our space. We offer complimentary coworking so long as folks show up before noon, but we offer them the ability to be in our space, to work where we work, to meet some of the folks who are here within our community, some of the other entrepreneurs, some of the mentors, and really kind of see what’s available and ask questions.
This seems overwhelming in some respects, what you offer. How does someone who is just trying to figure out their place in the world, is there a guide to all of the tools that you offer or someone that they can meet with just to figure out if this is the right fit for them?
I would definitely recommend that folks go to our website, which is Forge, arizona.edu, and look around at some of what we offer. And I would definitely recommend that folks come by on a Thursday morning and ask for one of our staff and just feel free to put it out there whatever you’re working on or whatever your interest is, and just kind of be brave and vulnerable about it. I’ve heard this advice from entrepreneurs that we have here who are really successful in what they’re doing. And what they’ve said is, just throw it out there because you don’t know who you’re going to meet. That’s going to be the resource that’s going to help get you on your path. So talk to everybody. You can get your ideas out there, meet people, be in the community. And this is such a good starting place because again, if you come here and you meet us and you say, this is what I’m looking to do, we can tell you, great, we think Mentoring 101 is a free program we can offer you that we think would really help or
being part of our mentoring. Or we might even say, hey, look for where you are. We actually think this other program would be better. But let us tell you how you find those resources. So we really do want to help folks with that journey.
I think part of the intimidation. And we covered this because it’s not going to be a two part interview. So in the first part, we talked about this. This is not just you have a clear cut idea that you want to launch. I don’t even know if I want to explore the idea of being an entrepreneur. I don’t have an idea. I don’t even know what it takes to come up with an idea. That sort of bedrock is something, and I don’t know where else that exists.
Well, and I think our Thursday programs are designed to be broadly accessible. And something else fun that we’re doing that I think is perfect for someone in that situation that Erica didn’t mention is that when there is a fifth Thursday of the month so not every month, but in September there is one. We’re running an event on Thursday mornings called Cereal Entrepreneurs where we will serve lots of different breakfast cereals and you’ll bring up your dusty notebook of ideas that we all have at home. Just are like little half baked feather brained things. Bring them in and you have an opportunity to rapid fire pitch them to a group. So it doesn’t have to be something that is fully fleshed out. You don’t have to have fully considered it. Just bring your little ideas and share them because should I see those tagline? Please. Because you never know when an idea as cheap as cereal will be as important as breakfast.
Wow, who came up with that?
I think we all have.
That’s where all your dollars are going.
On this investment.
It’S a human tendency to create and I think we all have ideas about things and maybe you just don’t know what to do with these ideas. But I think sharing them is that first step. Just coming into a community where everybody’s going to come in with an idea that might not be the best idea in the world, but hey, we’re all here and we’re just putting it all out on the table and somebody could really latch onto it and say, hey, that’s a great idea, you should do that. Maybe that’s the encouragement and the push that you need to go to the next step. And then you’re in this space where startup Tucson is here so you can talk to them a little bit about your idea. If you want to, you can come upstairs and talk to one of the mentors. Like maybe that’s the catalyst to starting something new that maybe is more important than you ever thought it could be.
Talk about costs to get involved with this. If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to take advantage of these resources, what’s.
Really great is our goal is to be accessible to everybody. And like you said, it’s for folks who they might not know or even folks who are pretty far along and know that most of what we do we offer to the community free of charge.
That’s an affordable cost.
Yes. So it lets you try that out. If it never occurred to you to be an entrepreneur or a lot of cases, and I’ve seen this a lot in Tucson working with local businesses is I see folks who they follow their passion. Maybe they’re now a successful artist and they’re selling their art and they’re marketing their art and they’re expanding and building that business and building their customer base. But they never started from a place of, well, I’m going to study business and I’m going to learn how to do those things. They’re now in the position where, wow, this is becoming successful, but it’s also feeling overwhelming because there are things I want to expand it I want to be successful. How do I get to that next step without feeling completely overwhelmed? So the venturing education that we offer folks can take all the modules. They can just take one of the modules. So somebody who’s like, you know what? That financial literacy piece that’s really important to me right now because I have built
this business, but I’m realizing I don’t know some of the basics I need to know about being incorporated correctly or with loans that I want to take on for the business or they might be expanding their team. I meet a lot of solo entrepreneurs who are like, okay, it’s more than just I can do. I need to expand. But how do I do that mindfully? What kind of people do I need to bring on? What roles do I need to fill? So we have a module for that, for how to build a team, or folks who are trying to figure out how their business model is working again.
You might be in the midst of a program, you got it started, you’ve launched, but it’s not working the way you expect. And this is a place maybe retool.
And rethink, especially for folks who are in the thick of it. These are folks who don’t have time to say, oh, you know what? I now realize I need to go back to school and get an MBA so that I can finish having this successful business. They’re in the thick of it. Their business is happening. It is already on its way to being successful, but they need a little bit of help and a little bit of access to information and tools to really get to that next level. We want to help them do that.
I think Forge is offering a more community based, collaborative approach to what it means to have a business.
That was Alicia How. She was joined by Erica Mitnick from the Arizona Forge at Roy Place in downtown Tucson. And I did see on Facebook after we did the interview, alicia has moved to a different position within our community. So if you have questions on the Arizona Forge program, I recommend you contact Erica. She is their communications and marketing person and can get you into the right spot. And of course, don’t forget this Friday, we talked about it last week. They’ve got their Big Venture game and you find it all the details on our Facebook page, but really cool activities happening at Royal Place. Well, my name is Tom Heath, and you’re listening to Life along the streetcar downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on downtownradio.org.
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Well, thanks for joining us for episode two one Nine, our two parter wrap up with Alicia and Erica from the Arizona Forge program. Also want to give a huge shout out to DJ Bank. Last week was his 300th episode and I didn’t really congratulate him properly. That’s just a phenomenal accomplishment happened during our seven year anniversary and he has been a huge part of making Downtown Radio a great place to listen. His show precedes us and then we’re bracketed here. We got Ted Prozelski with Words and work coming up at 1130, and then at the top of the hour, Ty Logan. And then after his show from noon to one, that’s what’s called heavy mental. Then you get back into music, which will bring you all the way through, I think around 11:00 p.m., starting with Speakerbox X Solvive Sundays and then our evening programming. All of that’s available for review on our website downtownradio.org. Get the whole schedule of events for Sundays and then a few new show, roadside rest stop on Mondays, fun show
and then I’m a huge fan. I talked about it last week, but just a huge fan of some of our DJs. Like we have brother Mock and he does the radio club crawl. I absolutely think this is a phenomenal way to learn all about what’s happening on the music scene in Tucson. He runs it kind of 4 hours on Tuesday, it’s from three to seven. Sometimes there’s a total of 4 hours. Sometimes he does a little bit of history. But still you get the local bands, the national touring bands, people are going to be playing in Tucson. You can get a feel for them on his show, The Radio Club Crawl, and then a ton of info just about the artists and about the venues. So head over to Downtownradio.org, check out all of those different programming options. And while you’re there, don’t forget to hit that donate button. Because we are an all volunteer radio station. If you’ve just recently started listening to us, then you may not know that every one of our DJs, all of our staff, all of our board members, the smart people,
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out of September and into October, the last part of the year. We got all the holidays coming up. It’s going by so fast. What happened? Right? We say that every year. It’ll be New Year’s any moment now. And as a reminder, the Pride Parade registration ends today. So if you wanted to get in that float, head over to their website, probably find them on Facebook. Pride Parade. We also linked to it from our Facebook page earlier in the week. And we’ll see you out there on south 6th Avenue this coming Friday. And in honor of that, we’re going to leave you with some music from Corinne Crimson. I believe it’s a single. Came out in 2022 for this week, aptly named as a Pride Parade. Well, my name is Tom Heath. I hope you have a fantastic week and don’t forget next Sunday to tune in for more life along the streetcar.